For the past two years the public has been waiting for the opening of the first Pork Barrel BBQ Restaurant located right outside Washington DC in Del-Ray Alexandria, VA. I personally have been waiting for the opening of the restaurant for the past year, and last night I got a chance to visit the place and also try out some barbecue. Over the past year, I have become good friends with both Brett and Heath and I have asked a lot of questions about the restaurant, so as soon as they opened up I wanted to go to the place right away. So lets get started with the review*:
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The expectations for the first Pork Barrel BBQ Restaurant located in the up-scale neighborhood of Del-Ray Alexandria, VA were sky high. I mean, not only is the All-American Pork Barrel BBQ Sauce really great, they are one of the up and coming barbecue teams on the KCBS circuit. They won the 2011 – Safeway DC Barbecue Battle and they were also contestants on ABC’s Shark Tank, so both Heath and Bret have serious barbecue chops. I was looking forward to trying out there restaurant fair!! So here is some thoughts on the restaurant.
Second to the food, the atmosphere in a restaurant is very important, which is obvious because you have to sit down and enjoy your meal right? At Pork Barrel Del-Ray, they did a great job of combining both the family aspect of barbecue, with the atmosphere of having a place to enjoy sports with your friends. With all the “shared tables” and community tables, Pork Barrel BBQ Del-Ray really accomplishes what I think are their goals for the space. The one aspect that I would like to see some improvement is the lighting in the restaurant, even though it was somewhat late at night when I went, some added lighting would add so much to the space.
Barbecue Food: During our trip to Pork Barrel BBQ, I tried the following: A rack of ribs, Brisket, Pulled Pork, Mac and Cheese, and Baked Beans. So here are my thoughts on the food:
Rack of Ribs - I normally like my ribs a bit sweet and nice and saucy, but after visiting a local Memphis Rib institution earlier this year, I realized that this isn’t what traditional ribs are at a restaurant. What makes a great barbecue restaurant rib great is the amount of bark on the top, with a bit of heat and and the meat having a little tug before they fall off the bone. This is what you get at Pork Barrel BBQ, a great traditional barbecue rib. The amount of their “All-American Spice Rub” was just perfect which provided a bit of heat but not over powering, it is just perfect! After eating the ribs, it made me want to go to my local supermarket and pick up a jar of their rub. One thing that I would like to see on the menu in the future, is a choice between a wet and a dry rib. I think that would be a great addition to the menu.
Brisket – If I had to rank my favorite types of barbecue meats to eat at barbecue restaurants, Brisket would be ranked a very close second to either pulled pork and ribs, so I was really looking forward to trying the brisket sandwich. I know that both Heath and Brett love to make brisket and also love to eat some good quality brisket so this added to my excitement and I wasn’t disappointed. The brisket was so moist and really enjoyable to eat. You can see all the nice meat juices right on your bun and it made you want to eat more than what was on your plate, and what topped it off was that since the brisket was so moist it really didn’t need a lot of barbecue sauce, actually you can eat the brisket without and you would be more than happy.
Pulled Pork – After trying to conquer making my own pulled pork, I realized how hard it is to create that perfect barbecue dish but the Pork Barrel BBQ guys have passed the test with flying colors. Again, the pulled pork texture was perfect and also nice and moist. If you want to make it even more amazing I would suggest adding some sweet Pork Barrel barbecue sauce located right on your table.
Mac and Cheese – For those readers returning to our site, you know that I LOVE Mac and Cheese, so much so that if a barbecue restaurant doesn’t have good mac and cheese, I will not be returning! I really enjoyed the “Monster Mac and Cheese” very much. The mac and cheese defiantly had a little kick to it, but the addition of some bread crumbs on the top baked on really added some great flavors which balanced nicely the spice.
Baked Beans - Since I have been traveling around the country and to different barbecue restaurants, I have been realizing that baked beans is a must have at any serious barbecue place just like a quality mac and cheese. The guys at Pork Barrel did a very good job with the baked beans. With the addition of some burnt ends from the brisket ( I am assuming that this is the case) and also the addition of the sweetness of the barbecue sauce, the beans were a great addition to the menu and a must have!
Overall Impression & Final Verdict: One of my favorite parts of the whole entire restaurant that I didn’t talk about during my first impression/review that really made my experience amazing is the vintage soda ice chest. I love the concept of the soda chest, and also I love that I got a chance to “travel around the country” not only through food but through soda. The Pork Barrel guys did a great job in making barbecue food appealing to not only the barbecue lovers like myself but to the “average” family. Not only was the food amazing and true to barbecue, the dining atmosphere was a place where I can see myself spending countless hours during the weekend watching the latest football game or even baseball game during the summer. The restaurant was open and inviting and carried the vision of a true barbecue experience. I look forward to trying all the items on the menu and also seeing this restaurant achieving .*
*(Since we went on opening night, we didn’t get a chance to try all the food, and I guess this review is more of a “First Impression”)